This is my favourite part of London. I lived in Mansion House in central London for a year and Borough Market became my sanctuary most weekends. This is a place that any foodie must visit. Better than Harrods or Selfridges’ food halls and with street food as good as many restaurants, Borough Market offers the best of fresh, cured, baked and cooked ingredients.
Although it fits into quite a compact area, the variety of food on offer is vast. There are large stores that are ‘staples’ of the market such as Brindisa, offering the best Spanish ingredients in London and the celebrated Neal’s Yard dairy which started it all and which pedals a beautiful range of artisan cheeses. There are cooked food stalls, offering food from sausages to seafood curry. Then there is the world food offering, with stalls selling spices, herbs and seasonings from India, Mexico, Italy, France, Turkey and more. If you are looking for some slightly more obscure items, it is likely you will find them here or in the surrounding area.
I have a number of haunts in Borough Market. One of my favourites is on the way in as you enter the market from Stoney Street, just down from Borough tube stop: Le Marche du Quartier. As you walk in, your nostrils are hit by the beautiful smell of duck cooking in an enormous skillet at the same time your ears are assailed by a bald Frenchman in a flatcap bawling his wares across the market! As you enter the store, be sure to look on the left, where you will see a pair of barrels from which, French-style, you can bring a 500cl or 1l bottle to fill up with red or white wine. As well as other bottles of wine, the store contains a host of other French treats including cheeses, confit duck legs, and wonderful jars of pre-prepared cassoulet.
Another favourite stall is just 2 shops down from Le Marchet; a shop called Utobeer. This contains probably the largest range of continental beers I have ever seen. Belgian, German, or the newly emerging range of artisan American ‘Craft’ beers are all available. What’s more, Utobeer have an excellent pub further into the market called The Rake with a nice little beer garden that is as nice in the winter with the awning drawn over as it is with the sun beaming down in the heart of june.
If you are a photographer or artist, a camera is an absolute essential when travelling to Borough Market. As well as delicious smells and flavours, Borough Market is a feast for the eyes. Colourful displays of seasonal vegetables, artisan breads and cheeses and in the autumn, mountains of spectacular mushrooms are piled up on the many stalls, although they do like you to pay if you’re going to snap! Even if you are not coming for some specific food items, I would recommend bringing a small amount of spending money to pick up a few treats.
The farmer’s market is another interesting area, as this is the area of the market that changes most from week to week. The last time I was there, there was an excellent Biltong (a South African Beef Jerkey) stall, but there are always interesting new things to see.
I could easily speak about Borough Market for far longer, but the best way to experience it is to go… but not on a full stomach!